In an episode of the television series Seinfeld, titled The Bubble Boy, the character George Costanza visits a boy named Donald. Donald has an immune deficiency and must live behind a plastic divider, or bubble, but that is not important for our story here.
George and Donald decide to play a game of Trivial Pursuit. At one point, Donald must answer the question, “Who invaded Spain in the 8th century?” Donald answers “the Moors”, which would seem to be a reasonable answer for anyone with a passing familiarity with European history. However, the answer on the card is a misprint – it says “the Moops”. George refuses to accept “the Moors” as the correct answer. As you might expect from a Seinfeld episode, Donald resorts to physical violence.
The Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare”, can be understood as a three-legged stool. One leg is the requirement that health insurers insure anyone, regardless of how sick they already are. Another leg is the mandate that everyone get health insurance, or pay a penalty. The last leg is the subsidy that middle-income people receive, so that they can get insurance even if they couldn't otherwise afford it.
If any one of the legs is removed, the whole system collapses. If insurers don't have to insure anyone, they will cherry-pick the healthiest people, and the sickest people will end up with no insurance at all, like our previous system. If nobody is required to get insurance, only the sickest people will find it worthwhile, insurers will raise their rates to compensate for higher costs, and moderately healthy people will not be able to afford it. If middle-income people receive no subsidies, they will pay the smaller penalty instead, unless they get sick, and then we are back to only the sickest people buying insurance.
The Affordable Care Act sets up a system where each state can set up an exchange, where insurers can sell and where individuals can buy insurance. The federal government has set up an exchange for the states (34 of them) that did not set up their own exchange. A state that sets up its own exchange has discretion over standards for insurance plans and can negotiate prices with insurers.
In a case currently in front of the Supreme Court, King versus Burwell, the court must answer the question, “Residents of which states can receive subsidies to buy health insurance?” As it turns out, there was something of a misprint when the Affordable Care Act was drafted. The Act says, “enrolled in through an Exchange established by the State,” where, to be perfectly clear, it could have said, “enrolled in through an Exchange established by a State or the United States Department of Health and Human Services”. The plaintiffs in this case claim that the Act does not intend for residents of states using the federal exchange to receive any subsidies.
But that claim is obviously ridiculous. The state exchanges, which were not in the original bill, were allowed so that states could tailor their health insurance markets to their own requirements. Legislative history and debate at the time reveals that the idea that the federal exchange would not receive subsidies was not even considered.
George Costanza, out of spite for Donald, against all reason, insists that it was the Moops that invaded Spain. The challengers to the Affordable Care Act in King versus Burwell, out of spite for people who can't afford insurance without subsidies – or perhaps out spite for Democrats – against all reason, insist that only people in states with their own exchanges can get the subsidies.
In Pennsylvania's 8th congressional district, incumbent Republican Mike Fitzpatrick is retiring. This is a competitive district in suburban Philadelphia where President Obama lost by just under 2 points. In the last election, we endorsed businesswoman Shaughnessy Naughton for this seat, but she narrowly lost in the primary – by only 818 votes. She has just announced that she is running again, and we are wholeheartedly supporting her.
Also in Pennsylvania, former Representative Joe Sestak formally announced his campaign for the Senate seat currently held by Pat Toomey. He made his announcement in front of Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was agreed to in Philadelphia. In 2010, he lost against Toomey by a mere 2 points. With greater Democratic turnout in a presidential year, most experts consider this rematch to be one of the top Senate races of 2016. He has embarked on a walk across the state of Pennsylvania – over 800 miles – to emphasize his call for accountable leadership.
We have a problem.
In 2016, everyone expects Democrats to have an outstanding year. It will have a high-profile presidential election, with good turnout among Democrats. In the race for the White House, Democrats have the advantage of a “blue wall” – a number of states on the East and West Coasts and Great Lakes that are not only very populous, but very unlikely to vote for a Republican. It may be a close election, but we are confident that another Democrat will be elected president in 2016.
For the Senate, the seats that are up for election that year are favorable to Democrats. Republicans will be on the defensive in Illinois, Iowa, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin – all states that voted twice for President Barack Obama, yet have a Republican senator up for reelection. Most experts predict that Democrats will retake the Senate in 2016.
The problem is the House of Representatives.
Even with truly record-setting Democratic performance in 2016, hardly anyone expects Democrats to win enough seats to retake control of the House of Representatives. The last presidential year was 2012, when President Obama won reelection. In 2012, more Americans voted for Democrats than for Republicans for the House – 1.4 million more – and yet, Republicans easily retained control.
How is that possible? Because the deck was stacked against us.
Every ten years we have a census to count the population of the United States, and every ten years, we must redraw congressional district lines to reflect changes in the population. Republicans used their control of redistricting in several key states to redraw the district lines to favor Republicans. Five key states – Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Virginia, and North Carolina – now lean Democratic, and yet elect a heavily Republican House delegation.
They have taken full advantage of their control of the House. They have blocked progressive initiatives that would slow climate change and protect voting rights. And any bill that protects the right to abortion or tackles discrimination based on sexual orientation is dead on arrival.
Knowing that they can never lose, House Republicans are becoming ever more extreme. They have repeatedly threatened to force a default on United States debt. They have already shut down the federal government more than once, stalling the economy. Even as I write this, they are threatening to shut down the Department of Homeland Security, to force President Obama to split up immigrant families and deport the parents of American children.
I hope you're ready to take action. Because this year is when we start fighting back, and start taking control of redistricting for Democrats.
In the arcane process of redistricting, the key elections in most states are still years away. But the key election to reverse Republican control of redistricting in Pennsylvania is coming right up – it's this November. When it comes to congressional district maps, Pennsylvania is the most skewed state in the country. It has voted for a Democrat for president in every election since 1992. However, after the census of 2010, Republicans controlled redistricting. They redrew the district map, and Pennsylvania now elects 13 Republicans, and just 5 Democrats to the House of Representatives. A fairer map would elect 13 Democrats and 5 Republicans – a fairer district map would elect 8 more Democrats to the House. This 8-seat difference would go a long way toward Democratic control of the House.
Make no mistake – this will be the most important election of the next decade. And our opponents know it just as well as you and I do. The Koch Brothers have just committed to a campaign in Pennsylvania this year. With billions of dollars at their disposal, and many Democrats inclined to stay home on election day this year, it will be tough.
Our latest newsletter, with some more information on the Koch Brothers in Pennsylvania, the pending interest rate hike by the Federal Reserve, an article discussing an important book about the Supreme Court, and our regular updates.
We need your help to fight back against Republican redistricting, and fight back against the Koch Brothers. With your help we can put a stop to extremism in Congress. Please, donate here now of whatever you can, today. Your donation now will help determine whether Republicans control Congress for the next 15 years.
With the year coming to a close, and the election of 2014 behind us, you may be forgiven for thinking that our work is over for now. But our work doesn't end. The next year is just around the corner, and for an odd year, 2015 holds outsized importance. The election in November 2015 in Pennsylvania determines the fate of eight US House seats in 2022.
We must plan ahead to create the foundations for victory in the future. Every decade, we have a nationwide census, and congressional district lines must be redrawn to accommodate changes in population. Republicans plan their election strategy ten or more years into the future. We have not done that, and we have suffered as a result.
In the last redistricting after the census of 2010, Republicans took advantage of redistricting to draw the most lopsided congressional district map in the country in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania nominally leans Democratic; it hasn't voted for a Republican for president since 1988. But despite that, Pennsylvania sends a whopping 13 Republicans, and just 5 Democrats to the House of Representatives.
It's time to fight back. Due to the byzantine redistricting process, the key election to end this Republican gerrymandering is coming right up. In 2015, three seats on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court are up for election, and which party wins these seats next year will determine which party will control redistricting after the census of 2020.
Our plan is described in greater detail in the included newsletter. In addition, we have articles on the “Dapacratic Revolution”, the Supreme Court, the ongoing policing protests, our upcoming candidate boot camp, the recent diplomatic initiatives regarding Cuba, and updates on DAPAC-supported candidates who are now in office.
To help jump-start our efforts for the coming year, one of our longtime supporters has agreed to match all contributions, up to a total of $15 thousand, for the next few weeks. Any contribution you make before January 15th will have double the impact. Please donate here of whatever you can afford. Whatever you send today will be an investment for the years to come.
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